Sleepycat Acquisition Brings Oracle Open-Source DBMS



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The acquisition of Sleepycat Software extends Oracle's experimentation with the open-source community, while strengthening its embedded database management system (DBMS) strategy.

News Analysis


On 14 February 2006, Oracle announced that it has completed its acquisition of Sleepycat. Sleepycat supplies a dual-license (open source and commercial) version of the Berkeley DB DBMS. The Berkeley DB family consists of two DBMS engines (the original Berkeley DB engine and a Java-based engine), along with an XML extension to the Berkeley DB engines for XQuery. Oracle has stated that it will offer Berkeley DB with Oracle Database Lite, Oracle Database 10g and TimesTen for a complete embedded DBMS strategy of offering specific engines for specific purposes.


The Sleepycat acquisition extends Oracle's set of offerings for embedded DBMSs. Oracle already has Oracle Lite for mobile devices and the TimesTen DBMS for high-end analytical and high-speed transactional in-memory applications. Sleepycat's Berkeley DB gives Oracle capabilities that address the needs of the "edge" applications market — the market for embedded applications that run on devices such as routers or appliances. This gives Oracle a set of DBMSs for the embedded space that is unequaled by other vendors'.

Although Sleepycat has been in business for about nine years, it has remained a small company with a loyal customer base of primarily large vendors (for example, Amazon, AT&T, HP and Sony). Oracle's ownership will give Berkeley DB greater market appeal for mainstream users, extending the product's reach through the Oracle sales and customer support organizations.

The acquisition does not, however, imply that Oracle will integrate TimesTen or Berkeley DB with Oracle 10g or Oracle Lite. For example, Berkeley DB does not use SQL and does not support PL/SQL. Gartner does not believe this will change. Oracle's strategy is to offer the correct DBMS for different types of applications requiring embedded DBMSs, and we believe Oracle will facilitate the movement of data among the disparate databases with interfaces and tools yet to be announced.

Sleepycat is Oracle's second open-source software (OSS) DBMS acquisition; the InnoDB relational file system was the first. We believe that by 2007, Oracle will acquire several additional OSS products on its way to building an OSS stack offering (0.8 probability).Although we believe Oracle will continue to enhance, offer and support the open-source version, it is likely the commercial potential of Berkeley DB that interests Oracle most.


  • Enterprises interested in the use of "pure" OSS DBMS engines should adopt a wait-and-see approach. OSS Berkeley DB customers, along with users of other OSS products, should not feel compelled to switch products just because a large vendor has acquired their OSS provider. Such acquisitions do not necessarily mean that resulting products will become less open-source in nature.

  • Commercial Berkeley DB customers should stay the course. For them, this acquisition is good news, because Oracle has considerably larger resources for development and support.

Analytical Source: Donald Feinberg, Gartner Research

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